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The U.S. trade deficit widened to $502.25 billion in 2016, the largest since 2012.

Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Trump's blindspot: The president sees trade deficits as evidence of the United States losing, and appears to want to reduce this number whatever the consequences. But there are several reasons why this world view will not serve him well:

  1. U.S. GDP is nearly $19 trillion, so the trade deficit is just 2.6% of GDP. Even if we were able to close the trade gap purely through increasing exports, the effect of this relative to the overall economy would be small.
  2. That is an unrealistic scenario. Americans tend to buy more imports as the economy improves, as has been the case for the past several years.
  3. Trump could resort to tariffs to lower imports and potentially spur more domestic production, or put pressure on the Federal Reserve to adopt policies that devalue the dollar. But there would be potentially insurmountable institutional resistance.
  4. A border-adjusted tax may help reduce the deficit, but not if the dollar surges in value in response. A stronger dollar makes imports cheaper and exports tougher to sell abroad.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.